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City Watch: Austin adds 120-day notice requirement when renovations cause permanent resident displacement

Synopsis

The City of Austin recently amended an existing ordinance to require more notice when multifamily renovations will result in permanent resident displacement.


Key takeaways

  • The Austin City Council approved a new 120-day notice requirement when interior or exterior renovations would result in the permanent displacement of residents.
  • The new requirement took effect April 21 as it was posted and considered as an emergency item on the Council’s agenda.
  • The Austin Apartment Association is seeking clarification on some unanswered questions about the new requirement.  

On April 21, the Austin City Council amended the city’s existing Tenant Notification and Relocation Ordinance to require a 120-day notice to residents whenever the interior or exterior of any multifamily (MF) building (five or more units) is altered or repaired that would result in the permanent displacement of tenants. The requirement went into effect immediately as the council posted and considered it as an emergency item.

The intent of the ordinance is to prevent residents from being issued a Notice to Vacate (NTV) in order to begin renovations. The Texas Property Code already contains language to prevent this from happening.

The council stated that “numerous recent and ongoing incidents” involving apartment renovations have led to residents being permanently displaced, but only one situation was highlighted at the council meeting. Residents impacted by the highlighted situation, organized by the tenant advocacy group known as BASTA, reported displacement caused by onsite construction activities and the inability to find available housing nearby. All residents were on month-to-month leases and were given a NTV in accordance with the Texas Property Code.

Upon learning of the amendment, the Austin Apartment Association asked many questions and raised several concerns. AAA was told that that the new 120-day notice requirement would only be required if renovation or repairs to a unit require a demolition or building permit and result in permanent resident displacement.

Since nearly all apartment renovations are performed when the unit becomes vacate after the resident’s lease has ended, the notice will not be required in most all circumstances. Building permits are not needed for common apartment unit renovations such as new flooring, appliances, cabinetry and appliances.

The new requirement does not apply when the needed repairs and renovations to an apartment unit(s) is caused by the resident or by “events beyond the control of owners” such as a fire or natural disaster. The notice is also not required when residents are provided other units onsite or when given temporary hotel accommodations to escape construction activities.

However, the exact application of this new requirement remains murky, and the city was not able to answer several key questions or give exact details prior to passage. Yet to be resolved are issues such as:

  • Will the notice be required if/when residents must be displaced to address a code violation or to remedy mold issues? How can a property meet code compliance deadlines if they have to give a 120-day notice?
  • If a resident is on a month-to-month lease arrangement, should he still receive a 120-day notice?
  • If non-permitted renovations to a unit begins, and additional work is needed that requires a building permit, will this be considered a violation of the Tenant Displacement Ordinance?

The City of Austin stated that answers to these questions, and others, are forthcoming. AAA members will soon be provided those answers and the opportunity for members to ask additional questions directly to city staff will be organized. For questions or more information contact paul@austinaptassoc.com

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